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April 30, 2008

SCS.comWith only three weeks left in SEC play, the conference tournament in Hoover is nearing. As of today, the seeding would see Georgia as the top seed, Mississippi as the 2 seed (due to their lead in the SEC West), Florida as the 3, Vandy as the 4, Tennessee as the 5, South Carolina with the 6, Kentucky with the 7, and Alabama with the final seed. We’ll take a look at each team along with Arkansas and LSU as the SEC Tournament is only four weeks away.

1. Georgia - Before they lost last weekend’s series at Florida, the Bulldogs hadn’t lost an SEC series. No need for them to panic. With a strong pitching rotation and a dominant closer (Fields) along with arguably the nation’s best offensive player (Beckham), Georgia should finish the SEC season as the 1 seed in the SEC Tournament and receive a national seed if they fare well in Hoover.

2. Mississippi - Although they most likely won’t have the second best SEC record at year’s end, due to the winner of the Western division getting the 2 seed in the SEC Tourney, the Rebels will technically finish in second place. Like Georgia, Mike Bianco’s squad has a good starting rotation but the bats haven’t performed to their potential yet. If they don’t play well in the next few weeks, surprisingly, they may seem themselves on the NCAA Tourney’s bubble.

3. Florida - After losing three consecutive SEC series, the Gators responded with a huge series win over the past weekend against SEC-leading Georgia. Kevin O’Sullivan has helped the pitching staff tremendously this year and the bats are starting to get it together. Florida has arguably the best pitcher in the SEC in Patrick Keating, who owns an 8-0 record and 2.69 ERA.

4. Vanderbilt - Up to this point in the year, the Commodores have really underachieved. Boasting players like Pedro Alvarez, Ryan Flaherty, Dominic de la Osa, and Mike Minor, Vandy’s SEC record stands at only 11-9. The starting pitching of Mike Minor, Caleb Cotham, and Nick Christiani has been solid, but the offense can’t seem to get hits in big situations. A series against Tennessee this weekend is big for both teams, as Vandy holds a half-game lead over them, South Carolina, and Kentucky.

5. Tennessee - After dropping two road series to Arkansas and Mississippi State, the Vols will have a tough task in finishing off SEC play against Vandy, Kentucky, and South Carolina. Tennessee’s starting pitching has been strong in the SEC, led by Bryan Morgado, who leads the conference in strikeouts. The mysterious absence of top offensive player Shawn Griffin in the lineup could hurt Tennessee’s chances at NCAA postseason play due to their weak play in midweek non-conference games.

6. South Carolina - The Gamecocks will need to respond after getting swept at LSU over the past weekend. Like Georgia’s situation, there’s no need to panic here as Ray Tanner’s squad is a very talented team. With such a powerful offense that can score runs at a premium, the Gamecocks need their starters to do a better job. South Carolina should see themselves in the hunt for a high seed in the SEC Tourney if they can improve their starting pitching.

7. Kentucky - Winning a series over the past weekend against Vandy was a big step in improving their SEC record over .500. The Wildcats have one of the better offenses in the nation with Sawyer Carroll and Collin Cowgill and the starting pitching is certainly looking more impressive over the past few weekends. If Kentucky can finish the year strong, hosting an NCAA Regional isn’t out of question.

8. Alabama - The Crimson Tide won an important series last weekend against in-state rival Auburn. Bama can struggle on the mound at times, but has a strong offense that can keep them in ballgames. Jim Wells’ squad seemed out of the tournament picture a few weeks ago but has put some impressive wins together lately. There will be a fight for the 8 seed between them, Arkansas, and LSU.

9. LSU - Their three game sweep of South Carolina over the past weekend is one of the bigger stories of the year in conference play. Near the cellar of the SEC the past month, with their sweep of the Gamecocks, the Tigers are now back in the race to make it to Hoover. If the Tigers can finish the season strong, say win 5 of their final 9 games, they should make the SEC Tourney and also make the NCAA Tourney.

10. Arkansas - Like LSU, the Razorbacks have been hot as of late. Winners of their past three weekend series against Florida, Tennessee, and Mississippi, Arkansas now sees it selves in position to make it to Hoover if they finish strong. Alabama comes to Fayetteville this weekend in a series that could ultimately decide the final seed of the SEC Tourney.

SEC Tourney Predictions

1. Georgia
2. Mississippi
3. South Carolina
4. Vanderbilt
5. Florida
6. Kentucky
7. Tennessee
8. LSU

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